THE LATEST

Help us rise to the challenge of covering the coronavirus crisis. Our journalism is free for all to access. But we rely on your support. Donate today to power our journalists.


Here's your daily audio briefing (updated weekdays):


Former SD Mayor Kevin Faulconer He Says Wants To Replace Gov. Newsom In 2022

Updated
Published
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer heads to the stage to speak during an election eve party at the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego on June 5, 2018. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has formally announced he's running for governor of California in 2022.

In a campaign video posted to YouTube Monday, the Republican criticized Governor Gavin Newsom for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Governor Newsom's ruling class has failed us," Faulconer's voiceover says, accusing the governor of making decisions to protest powerful special interest groups and lobbyists.

Faulconer also accuses Newsom of failing to fix the state's homeless crisis, saying that California has become "the land of broken promises."

Organizers of the Recall Newsom effort say they're very close to getting enough signatures to get on the ballot.

It's unclear how that would affect Faulconer's campaign.

One thing to keep in mind: Newsom's approval ratings have remained high. A Public Policy Institute of California poll in December found that when it came to jobs and the economy Newsom was at 58% approval, with more than half of voters with no party preference saying the approved of the governor.

READ MORE ABOUT NEWSOM RECALL HERE:

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

What Exactly Is Newsom Thinking Putting Blue Shield In Charge Of Vaccinations?

Updated
Published
File: California Gov. Gavin Newsom looks on during a news conference on Jan. 16, 2020 in Oakland. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, struggling to salvage a once-bright political future dimmed by his mishandling of the COVID crisis, tapped nonprofit health insurer Blue Shield of California last week to allocate the state's COVID vaccine.

The agreement with Blue Shield was made under an emergency authorization, circumventing the customary bidding process, and the company has thus far said little about how it plans to reorganize a gargantuan and complicated vaccination campaign that has befuddled and frustrated public health officials and vaccine seekers alike.

So we have some questions about this choice. Namely:

  1. Is Blue Shield up to the task?
  2. Was Newsom's decision politically motivated?
  3. Is Blue Shield well placed to accomplish the equitable distribution of vaccines to underserved communities that Newsom called "the North Star" of the new centralized system?
  4. What could have motivated Blue Shield to tackle such an onerous assignment?
  5. How will Blue Shield's results be measured?

HERE'S WHAT WE KNOW:

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

LA's COVID Cases, Deaths Decrease 'Significantly'

Updated
Published
(Screenshot Courtesy LA Public Health)

Following a week that saw, on average, more than 200 people die from COVID-19 each day, and a months-long surge of cases, Los Angeles County health officials are finally reporting fewer fatalities.

The Public Health Department reported 85 new deaths Monday, along with 4,223 new cases of the virus.

That's a significant decrease.

Daily cases have dropped by 67% compared to the peak of the winter holiday surge just three weeks ago. Hospitalizations are also down 30% since that time.

But county public health director Barbara Ferrer warned that even as some restrictions are lifted, like the ban on outdoor dining, Angelenos should still protect themselves against the virus, in the same ways we did before the rules eased and the numbers decreased:

"Any additional surge in cases would require us to take a step backward in our recovery journey...and that is something none of us wants," she said in today's media briefing.

Ferrer also urged against gathering at a restaurant with those not in your household. She also recommended double-masking and not gathering for the Super Bowl.

VACCINATION UPDATE

As for the county's vaccination efforts, Ferrer says, as of last week, the county had received nearly one million cumulative doses of vaccine.

Nearly 80% of those shots have already been administered, but County Supervisor Hilda Solis pointed out that's equivalent to only about 8% of the county's population.

As of Jan. 25, only 7.9% of L.A. County residents have received a first dose.

Ferrer cautioned that the number of doses arriving from the federal government continues to fluctuate each week. She said officials hope there's more available by March.

Last week, the county received more than 146,000 doses, about 22,000 fewer compared to the week before.

VACCINES FOR THE HOMELESS

Health officials say starting today, teams are starting to vaccinate residents, age 65-and-older, who are currently living in homeless encampments and shelters.

L.A. County Health Services Director, Doctor Christina Ghaly, says they expect to vaccinate about 400 people in that group this week, but the number of people will vary going forward, based on available doses.

HOME TEST KITS

The county is extending its COVID-19 home test collection program through at least February 15.

Dr. Ghaly says the program allows people who need to follow quarantine guidelines, seniors, and others with mobility issues, to more easily access a test.

You can request a kit to be mailed to your house at covid19.lacounty.gov/testing.

YOU CAN WATCH THE FULL COUNTY UPDATE HERE:

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Prosecutor's Union Sues New DA George Gascón Over Justice Reform Efforts

Updated
Published
George Gascón speaks during a news conference at the San Francisco Hall of Justice May 5, 2010 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The union representing L.A. County prosecutors is suing to stop justice reform efforts proposed by new District Attorney George Gascón.

Gascón wants to stop seeking prior felony conviction enhancements for things like gun possession, gang membership, and violation of the "three strikes" law.

He argues those enhancements unfairly lengthen a person's sentence.

Gascón spoke on our newsroom's public affairs show, AirTalk, which airs on KPCC:

"These are people that have campaigned very aggressively against every criminal justice reform in the last eight or nine years," he said of the prosecutor's union. "There is no question that moving away from a system that's been deeply embedded in incarceration has created political and monetary incentives for people. It's hard for people to move on."

LAist/KPCC criminal justice correspondent Frank Stoltze says Gascón's goal is to close the racial gap in the state's jails and prisons:

"This is really driven, according to Gascón, by these gang and gun enhancements, by the three strikes law, by this drive over the past three or four decades to lock people up [for] longer and longer. He's not just seeking to address mass incarceration, but to address these racial disparities."

Gascón told AirTalk that one of the major drivers of mass incarceration has been overcharging by prosecutors, which "essentially has forced defendants to plead guilty to avoid the risk of a long sentence."

"It's unethical," he said.

The prosecutor's union (the Association of Deputy District Attorneys for L.A. County) argues Gascón's order violates state law.

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE:

READ MORE ABOUT LA'S NEW DA:

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

These South Bay School Districts Are Reopening Some In-Person Classes This Week

Updated
Published
Signs on restroom doors remind students to keep six feet away from each other, wash their hands, and wear a mask. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

While Los Angeles Unified and other large school districts in the state are wrestling with how and when to resume in-person instruction, some smaller districts are already beginning to welcome at least some of their youngest students back to campus.

Public school districts in El Segundo, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach are all reopening campuses this week to serve students in transitional kindergarten through 2nd grade. Those students will attend under a hybrid model, with some taking classes in-person and others virtually.

Those districts are also welcoming back some students who need specialized services. They’re also resuming in-person athletic conditioning for student athletes.

Last fall, prior to the most recent regional stay-at-home orders that closed down schools, some districts had reopened partially under waivers granted by the County Health Department. These South Bay districts were among those that had their waivers granted.

In January, they heeded guidance from the L.A. County Department of Public Health to keep schools closed. Now, with coronavirus cases falling and the county easing restrictions, these districts are putting their hybrid learning and COVID-19 safety plans into action.

Starting Tuesday in El Segundo Unified, cohorts of students in transitional kindergarten through 2nd grade will spend two-and-a-half hours on campus in the morning or afternoon, four days a week. Students and school employees are expected to social distance and wear masks.

District Superintendent Melissa Moore says she’s confident in her district’s decision to resume in-person classes. She already has support from the school board, teachers' union, mayor’s office, parent teacher associations and other community groups.

”Being a small school district—we have just under 3,500 students—we can be more nimble,” Moore said.

Moore is also planning a proposal to bring 3rd grade students back on campus in mid-February. Throughout the process, she plans to keep her eye on local reported COVID-19 cases.

“We have a very small residential population...so our case rates have been very low,” Moore said.

In the last two weeks, El Segundo reported 310 cases per 100,000 people. Other L.A. County cities have reported thousands of cases over the same time frame.

Redondo Beach Unified likewise has reported relatively low cases, and on Monday started TK-2 hybrid classes for the first time since the pandemic began. Superintendent Steven Keller said day one was successful.

“We can confirm that we did not see one child cry as their parent walked away,” Keller said. “What we take away is kids are excited to come back to school.”

Keller’s district is testing out concurrent teaching, meaning one cohort of students learns on campus each day while another group learns virtually. Keller said he plans to gauge parents, teachers and students' thoughts on the program a little later this year.

In Manhattan Beach Unified, TK-2 students will also be divided into two cohorts. This week, the district will offer two on-campus days and next week it will ramp up to four.

As for L.A. Unified, Superintendent Austin Beutner said in his weekly video address that the coronavirus case rate remains too high to safely resume in-person classes. “There’s a lot that has to happen to get schools reopened,” he said.

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Pioneering TV Executive Jamie Tarses Dies At 56

Updated
Published
Pioneering TV executive Jamie Tarses died Feb. 1 at the age of 56. (Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

If you look around the television business, it’s not hard to find women holding powerful positions: Bonnie Hammer at NBCUniversal, Dana Walden at the Walt Disney Co. and Bela Bajaria at Netflix. It wasn’t always so — and there’s still a long way to go. But there was one pioneer who helped break the glass ceiling, and she died on Monday.

In 1996, Jamie Tarses became president of ABC Entertainment. Just 32 at the time, she not only was one of the youngest top executives in TV but also the very first woman to head programming at a major network. She died today at the age of 56 from a heart condition.

While at ABC, Tarses oversaw such series as “Sports Night,” “The Practice” and “Dharma and Greg.” But she is best known for her earlier work at NBC, where she helped launch “Friends,” “Frasier” and “Mad About You.”

More recently, Tarses produced the Amazon series, “The Wilds,” and the upcoming Disney Plus project, “The Mysterious Benedict Society.” But her real legacy? All the female TV executives who followed in her footsteps.

MORE ON TARSES

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Is California's Latest Vaccine Rollout Plan De-Prioritizing Higher-Risk Residents?

Updated
Published
Health care workers line up in cars as a COVID-19 mass-vaccination takes place at Dodger Stadium on January 15, 2021. (Irfan Khan / Pool / AFP via Getty Images)

Some health advocates fear California's recent changes to its vaccine rollout plan sacrifice equity for speed. They wonder how the state is going to live up to Gov. Gavin Newsom's oft-repeated pledge to distribute vaccines with an "equity lens."

"We feel like our communities are being once again overlooked," said Rhonda Smith, executive director of the California Black Health Network. "It's nothing new, but it's disappointing. This is our reality and why we do the work we do."

Alice Wong, a San Francisco disabled activist, said she was "completely thrown" by the new emphasis on age. Wong, who is 46, has a progressive neuromuscular disability that requires the use of a wheelchair and ventilator. Under previous criteria, she would have been eligible shortly after health care workers and nursing home residents:

"With high-risk people like me deprioritized, I will be part of a huge cohort and may have to wait longer or face more difficulty getting an appointment. It's very painful, especially with new variants of the virus emerging and knowing the pandemic won't end anytime soon."

READ THE FULL STORY:

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

LA Will Establish A 'Protest Zone' At Dodger Stadium To Avoid Future Incidents

Updated
Published
Anti–vax protestors approach the entrance to the vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Saturday Jan. 30 (Photo Courtesy Mikel Jollett via Twitter)

In case you missed it, approximtely 30-50 anti-vaccine, COVID-denying protesters forced the L.A. Fire Department to close the gate to the Dodger Stadium vaccination site for about an hour on Saturday, after they blocked the entrance as they held signs with messages such as "COVID=scam."

Today, city officials said they will establish a "protest zone" at the stadium, to avoid a repeat of Saturday's fiasco — in case of future protests.

Individuals who were already inside the stadium parking lot gates when the protest began were able to get their shots, but those outside were forced to wait until the demonstrators were moved to the sidewalk.

Most of the protesters were not wearing masks, and a lot of the folks at the stadium waiting to get their vaccine were senior citizens, who are at a high risk for contracting the coronavirus.

Firefighter David Ortiz explained the department's decision to close the gate:

"The Fire Department did not want to have people walking around the Dodger site for various reasons, including the personal safety of the protesters and also the safety of our workers, some of whom have not been vaccinated [which includes a lot of our volunteers]."

Ortiz explained that people walking around, where dozens and hundreds of cars are in line, was a safety issue.

But he also said the incident shouldn't be blown out of proportion.

"This group that was out there protesting was a minor delay for us" Ortiz added. "And the impact was minimal."

LAPD Tweeted that they did not close the gates (LAFD did) and that the "protestors remained peaceful." Curbed LA Editor Alyssa Walker and others responded, arguing that stopping "a life-threatening medical procedure from being administered is *not* peaceful."

Here is the full statement from a spokeswoman for Mayor Eric Garcetti's office:

"Out of an abundance of caution, the LAFD temporarily closed the entrance to the Dodger Stadium vaccination site for 55 minutes on Saturday, while vaccinations continued being administered within the gates. LAPD responded, the entrance was reopened, and no appointments were cancelled. The City is reviewing vaccine site safety protocol and will be setting up a protest zone in the event of any future protests."

READ MORE ABOUT GETTING THE VACCINE IN LA:

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Sheriff And Judge Clash Over Fighting COVID-19 In OC Jails

Updated
Published
Jose Armendariz is currently held at OC’s Theo Lacy jail. (Courtesy Johanna Diaz)

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes is fighting a judge over how to address COVID-19’s spread in the county’s jails.

Judge Peter Wilson wants a plan to release more inmates in order to slow transmission.

But Barnes says he’s already let go of everyone who can be released safely, arguing that those who are left would put the community at “substantial risk” if set free.

As the legal standoff continues, incarcerated people and their family members are sounding the alarm.

Johanna Diaz says her brother, Jose Armendariz, is a type one diabetic with asthma and blood pressure issues who is currently incarcerated at OC’s Theo Lacy jail.

“If he were to contact COVID it would be very terrible for his health, so he has to deal with that and the constant stress,” she said.

READ ON OUR FULL STORY ON COVID-19 CONDITIONS IN OC’S JAILS HERE:

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

On Being Black In LA: Being Bused Across Town Opened Up City As 'A Place Of Possibilities'

Updated
Published
(Ringo Chiu/AFP via Getty Images)

The theme of LAist's Black History Month coverage this year is, “What does it mean to be Black in L.A.?” We'll publish reponses from community members and staff throughout the month. Add your voice to the conversation below.

We kick off Day 1 with a reflection from a West Hollywood woman who found being bused across town as a kid in the 60s helped her see L.A. as a "place of possibilities."


"I am a lifelong Angeleno. Born in East L. A., I lived in Palm Lane, a post-World War II housing project which is now the site of MLK Hospital. Ironically, my mother died in Palm Lane because there were no hospitals in the area. In September 1964, I boarded a school bus at 6 a.m, part of volunteer bussing paid for by each parent. I rode for more than two hours from 75th Street and Broadway to Ralph Waldo Emerson Junior High School in West Los Angeles on Selby Avenue, behind the beautiful temple of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

"We were late that first day. I felt like I was in the South minus the police. Some days after school, we waited in front of the school until 7 p.m. because our bus did not come. The neighbors would call the police and somehow a bus would eventually show up. They did not allow our bus to park on the schoolyard with the other buses, so on rainy days we stood outside waiting. No one ever helped us. Administrators went home. No bathrooms. No food. No nothing.

"Many things happened that let me know my life experiences prior to Emerson were different than my classmates, even though no one was openly mean to us. I remember every year when we had to talk or write about what we did over vacation, my classmates talked about Hawaii in the winter and Europe during spring break and summer. I didn’t know then that their stories were the seeds of my dreams. I had no dreams prior to being bused across town. I knew I would get a job and work, but that was it. That blows my mind in hindsight. That first year at Emerson, there were a lot of celebrity kids there. Most were Jewish, and I started to think I was too. I knew all things Jewish because, even though this was LAUSD, it was a Jewish-centered environment. We danced the Horah in P. E. We sang Jewish songs in music class; I know all of “Fiddler on the Roof.” My chorus teacher was the daughter of Roger Wagner of the then-famous Roger Wagner Chorale. The history teacher everyone wanted would do a full on Hitler imitation — uniform and all — on the last day of school, and I saw some great movies in class. Academically, I appreciate that experience. But, upon graduation, I chose to return to my home school, John C. Fremont High. There was no social life for Black girls like me at Emerson, and the boys on the bus with me had decided we were no longer their cup of tea. It was lonely.

"The first day of high school in 1968 found me on the corner crying because I was afraid to go there. Now, I’m afraid of my own people! I realized then this was a mistake, but I couldn’t go back. But then, my life changed again. Two freshmen girls saw me and helped me navigate this new environment. I was different. Ultimately, I earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and teaching credentials. I went to Europe several times, and I went to Hawaii. I could not die without having done so. I would not have dreamed it without having been bused across town to Ralph Waldo Emerson. I learned to see Los Angeles as a place of possibilities where you may be hated and rejected, or misunderstood, but you can dream and that makes all the difference."

Cynthia, West Hollywood


RELATED


The first installment of our The 8 Percent project began exploring the inextricable ties between L.A. and its Black residents — how Black migration, community and culture have shaped and changed L.A. For Black History Month, we’re homing in on a more specific experience — yours. Tell us: What does it mean to you to be Black in L.A.?

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our nonprofit public service journalism: Donate Now.

10 Good Bets For Pandemic-Proof, Living-Wage Jobs In LA

Updated
Published
Licensed vocation nursing is among the frontline jobs expected to have thousands of openings in the coming years. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Essential, frontline jobs have provided a mixed blessing for many workers during the pandemic: stable employment, but often with low wages and, sometimes, high risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

A new report outlines 10 frontline jobs that provide a living wage and are expected to have thousands of openings in the Los Angeles area in the coming years. Many of them, including licensed vocational nursing, bookkeeping and computer user support, require some higher education, but less than a bachelor's degree.

"There's this perception that everybody needs to have at least a bachelor's degree to be successful and that's not necessarily the case," said report author Shannon Sedgwick, who directs the Institute for Applied Economics at Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.

READ MORE ABOUT PROMISING FRONTLINE JOBS:

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Morning Brief: COVID-19 Variants Are Spreading, But Safety Protocols Remain The Same

Updated
Published
(Courtesy LAC+USC Medical Center)

Good morning, L.A.

On Sunday, public health officials in L.A. reported the second local case of a COVID-19 variant which was first discovered in the U.K.

The first case of the variant was found in Southern California at the end of December, and in L.A. County, the first case was confirmed on Jan. 16.

At this point, there’s a lot that researchers don’t know about faster-spreading variants such as the U.K. strain and others emerging from Brazil, South Africa and even Southern California.

The vaccines that are now available to some members of the public appear to protect against these new strains, but it’s not clear how well they protect, or whether they’ll protect against other mutations that will inevitably develop.

And in the meantime, reports California Healthline’s Anna Maria Barry-Jester, “a lot of damage can be done in the time it will take to roll out the current vaccine.”

In other words, Americans haven’t been so great about adhering to coronavirus safety measures such as wearing masks, socially distancing and gathering outdoors. A faster spreading COVID-19 variant could make the existing danger we’ve brought upon ourselves that much riskier.

And yet, the fact remains that there is no other answer to curbing the spread than the answers we already have.

"It's very unsexy what the solutions are," said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a physician and professor at the University of California-San Francisco. "But we need everyone to do them."

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.


What Else You Need To Know Today


Before You Go … A Chicana's Ongoing Journey To Leave White Supremacy Behind

Sam Varela in New York in 2014 photographed by Mindy Tucker, who chronicles NYC's comedy scene. (Photo by Mindy Tucker)

As a light-skinned Latina in the comedy-entertainment industry, LAist contributor Samantha Varela reflects on the role that entrenched white supremacy, and "passing" as white, have played in her career.

“I was aware early on that my skin color allowed me access to jobs and worlds that I didn't see Black and Brown folx occupying,” she writes, “and I often felt like I ‘made the cut’ due to my white skin.”


Help Us Cover Your Community

  • Got something you’ve always wanted to know about Southern California and the people who call it home? Is there an issue you want us to cover? Ask us anything.
  • Have a tip about news on which we should dig deeper? Let us know.

The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft, and check LAist.com for updates on these stories and more. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Never miss an LAist story. Sign up for our daily newsletters.